Emails, Brand, and Customer Service

I stumbled on an interesting post by Andrew Neitlich talking about the excellent response he received from Yahoo! regarding a complaint he sent. It was a very nice letter with a corporate executive’s signature at the bottom. I think Andrew should, indeed, be impressed that he received a reply at all, especially one so detailed. Yet, as I read, the following text jumped out at me:

You are correct, after further review it was acknowledged that your site does not offer a product of service that Yahoo! does not to be affiliated with…”

Many companies monitor and assess the quality of phone calls. They understand that it is a “moment of truth” when that customer is going to make a judgment, positively or negatively about them. But aren’t e-mails and letters “moments of truth” as well? Those e-mail and snail mail responses reflect you and your brand – they make an impression – they can and will impact customer satisfaction and behavior.

Three common problems we find in e-mail Service Quality Assessments:

  • Poor spelling and grammar. I am amazed that this is so easily dismissed by everyone from the front-line CSR to the CEO. “No one cares about spelling and grammar in e-mails. It’s not expected to be perfect!” That’s always a head-scratcher for me. You don’t care that your company isn’t communicating in a professional manner? I understand that no one is perfect, but you should at least have minimum quality standards regarding the written communication you send to your customers. Otherwise, you’ve just given the customer another reason to dismiss you.
  • Stock responses. We may have become a cut-and-paste society, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re sending an impersonal e-mail to an angry customer that doesn’t adequately address his or her situation. You’ve just escalated the problem.
  • Poor branding. Often, e-mail replies are sent with no formatting at all. The response could have come from anyone, anywhere. Thought and consideration should be given to simple formatting choices. How are you going to address your customers? What about a standardized signature? A footer with your company motto, tag line or link? How do you want your CSRs to sign the e-mail?

Many companies want to migrate customers from expensive phone calls to cheaper forms of written communication. My question is: What’s the hidden cost, to you and your company, of poor communication and the resulting customer dissatisfaction?

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